In their last set of meetings, the Tuscola County Board of Commissioners appointed a new commissioner to fill a vacancy and discussed, at length, the proposed wind project in Juniata Township. This included a special meeting that followed their regular meeting. In addition, the Board followed the recommendations of the new Animal Control Director for new hours and fee scale.
Commissioners have selected Mark Jensen to replace Commissioner Craig Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick sent a short message of his resignation to Commissioners to take effect August 31st and Jensen would take office on September 1st. In his letter, Kirkpatrick said, “Though controversial at times, I’ve done my best, and feel we have many accomplishments to be proud of.” Jensen says that the learning curve may be long for him as he wasn’t quite ready to begin yet, and says there are some time commitments he is bound to that will keep him from attending some meetings this year.
Commissioners also heard from several residents of Juniata Township regarding the ongoing Pegasus project by NextEra Energy. Board Vice-Chairman Matthew Bierlein started off discussions at the Committee of the Whole meeting by asking how far NextEra would push the project, as cranes and pieces for towers are already in place. Due to improper dating of permits and lack of following proper process, the County has agreed to seek the advice of legal counsel regarding the County’s liability.
At a special meeting specifically called to talk about building code procedure and the County’s contracted service with South Central Michigan Construction Code Inspections (SCMCCI) and Caro Building Official Curtis Stowe. Stowe did not attend the special meeting. Bierlein asked the question, “Were we lied to?” During the special meeting, Chairman Thomas Bardwell cautioned the Board that this was a township issue, but that the County is attempting to avoid litigation. Although communication with the Michigan Department of Transportation- Tall Structures would seem to indicate otherwise, Stowe did communicate to the Board that he had their approval.
NextEra’s Project Manager Erico Lopez was in attendance for the meeting and stated with certainty that they are, “Not currently erecting turbines,” in Juniata Township. He also said they have nothing to discuss with the Airport Administrator because they haven’t gotten to that point in the process yet. He said the permits they currently have do not allow them to put up a turbine and that they aren’t pouring foundations for any turbine site they believe won’t be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Garrett Tetil of Juniata Township reminded the Board that the Airport Zoning Board of Appeals, newly re-formed after several years, has no obligation under the County’s ordinance to grant variances for the proposed project. Almer Township Trustee Jim Tussey spoke saying, “This is not about the turbines, but the airport. If we sabotage that, we sabotage the economy of the County.” Both Chairman Bardwell and Vice-Chairman Bierlein expressed that the Airport Zoning Ordinance had not been delved into on a Board level and were surprised to learn of the responsibility the County has for the airport.
Animal Control Director Leigh Nacy has set new hours and fees that were adopted by the Board at their regular meeting. The shelter’s hours of operation will now be from 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and the office will be open from noon until 7pm on Wednesdays. The shelter will also have bi-monthly Saturday hours. Dog adoption fees will be raised to $40 and cat adoptions will be $30. A deposit of $60 will be required saying that the adopter will spay or neuter the animal. There will also be a fee for surrendering an animal. That $25 will go toward boarding and food for the animal until it is placed. New pick-up and impounding fees are listed as $35 for the first offense, $70 for the second, third offense will cost $105 and the fourth will cost $200.
When Commissioners meet Monday morning, they will discuss ownership of County property, the beginning of budgeting for 2019, and receive an update on the property of the Recycling Center. The meeting will be held on Monday, September 10th at 8am in the Purdy Building in downtown Caro.
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